Similar to the tech boom that is taking place in the Arab region, Lebanon is also riding the innovation wave, as witnessed by the launch of the Banque du Liban Accelerate conference, the first of its kind in the MENA region and which gathered more than 1500 people regionally and internationally. The conference highlighted  once again the enormous potential of the Lebanese talent base which is constantly at the forefront of innovation. To leverage on this talent base, the Central Bank issued in 2013 Circular 331, which provides start-ups with the needed financing to grow their business. A year later, this Circular had much impact on changing the tech scene, with the number of venture capitalist and start-ups benefiting continuously increasing. To supplement this, the month of November witnessed a series of events aimed at supporting businesses. 
IDAL, as every year, has been an active participant in those events with the aim of ensuring that entrepreneurs are equipped with the right information and are knowledgeable about the current incentives available to them to further benefit from their investment in Lebanon.


In this issue we have focused on the promising future of start-ups in the North of the country, a region that is sometimes overlooked. Also in this issue is a special feature on worldwide investments and the sectors that are being driven by investment trends. 


I hope you will find the information useful, for any feedback please do not hesitate to contact us. 


Best Wishes,


Nabil Itani

Chairman-General Manager


A lot of initiatives are being implemented to encourage and nurture the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the North of Lebanon. From incubators, centers, as well as specialized funds all have played a role in encouraging the youth to take their careers into their own hands and start a new business. To date there are more than 120 start-ups in the North operating in the IT, creative industry, and education sectors, which if provided with the right support can turn into global players. Below is a snapshot of the key players and some success stories that are contributing to regional development.

Incubation Support
There are currently 2 incubators in the North, offering technical assistance and incubation support to start-ups. The Business Incubation Association of Tripoli (BIAT): BIAT incubate, host, network, train, and support value added business opportunities. It also offers a range of accommodation offers including freelancer's office, industrial space, infrastructure, facilities and administration support, Beirut Arab University- Center for EntrepreneurshipLaunched in 2011 it  aims to promote the culture of Entrepreneurship at an early stage. 


Financial Support

In addition to traditional means of financing through commercial banks, Kafalat provides guarantees to companies operating in the North, with more than a 1400 companies supported to date, while IDAL can provide tax breaks up to 10 years to companies operating in productive sectors. In addition, the Maurice Fadel Foundation (MFP), a non-profit organization, provides a prize for the best business plan for start-ups in the North in order to stimulate the culture of entrepreneurship among youth.


Technical Support

Some programs have been put in place by various organizations to provide entrepreneurs and start-ups with the needed training to turn their ideas into business models. Among these figure the IECD (Institut Européen de Cooperation et de Development) a French development organization which has trained and accompanied more than 110 entrepreneurs in the North to develop appropriate skills and reinforce business of entrepreneurs

A Selection of Success Stories in the North

Is one of the new players in the Olive Oil markets in the North with international reach in France, Hong Kong, Japan, Nigeria, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and United States. It produces and sells olive derivatives products.

Olive Trade, which is the manufacturing company, is currently serving the local Lebanese market through "House of Zejd" concept store, specialized shops, organic stores, restaurants and hotel chains. 


 CardioDiagnostics is one of the leading tech start-ups founded by young entrepreneurs in the North and which provides physicians with innovative technology to properly diagnose and treat patients with cardiac problems. The company currently serves the US market, with more than a 1,000 patients, 3 of which were saved because of this close monitoring and an early detection of heart arrhythmia. They are in partnership with one of the biggest hospitals in California and several medical centers. CardioDiagnostics' aim to enter the Lebanon and Emirati markets as a start and then expand to the entire Middle Eastern region. 




Is another technology start-up which creates furniture and home accessories based on 3D Arabic typography. The company currently serves the Lebanese and GCC markets, with plans to create an e-commerce platform to have a global outreach. Kashida also sells its products to retail stores in the GCC region and is looking to expand to key international cities.


Lebanon's Competitive Advantage

Despite the many hurdles that start-ups can face in the North, there are many competitive 

advantages that have allowed start-ups to thrive mainly: 

  • ability to leverage local talents in solving global problem
  • entrepreneurial spirit
  • highly-skilled and highly-educated workforce
  • the region's creative and production hub


Reforms Needed to Encourage Start-ups 

A quick survey was sent out to key start-ups in the North to ask them about changes and reforms they would like to see in order to facilitate their operations:


  • the amendment and implementation of business laws 
  • a need to focus on governmental financial incentives for start-ups and provide better training and orientation to the working force in order to match the needs of the demanding global economy
  • offer government subsidized offices and internet prices as well as tax deductions
  • media support in highlighting achievements 
  • access to funds




The IBM Institute for Business Value recently released its 2014 report on Global Location Trends, providing insights on the direction of foreign investments around the world and the latest trends in foreign companies strategies.




North America and Europe have regained their attractiveness as key investment destinations after witnessing a dip after the financial crisis, and Asia remains a top destination for investors. More specifically, Western Europe and mostly Germany experienced increases in investments while Eastern European countries are soon turning into the preferred locations for companies in Europe. Among Asian countries, China is seeing a change in its role in the global economy as a result of increasing labor cost, with Vietnam and Thailand gradually positioning themselves as the new preferred export platform for production activities. Emerging economies such as India and Brazil have seen a shift in sentiment with decrease foreign investment activity, with similar trends witnessed for Africa and the Middle East. The success of a country in attracting FDI is not only measured by the value of investments generated and jobs created but most importantly  by the value and knowledge intensity created by these investments. In that sense, Ireland would be the top performer worldwide in terms of value created by investments, attracting research and development (R&D) activities in Life Sciences and ICT, coupled with high value investments in financial services. Malta established itself as a gaming and digital media hub.




The streamlining of foreign investments to new locations can be linked to changes in corporate architecture  and operating models across different sectors. Market-drive sectors mainly tourism, wholesale & retail, and food & beverages have seen a surge in attractiveness notably in emerging markets. The tourism sector in particular was one of the largest recipient of FDI and generator of jobs. On the other hand, the performance of the ICT and business services sectors in generating jobs has not been at par with previous years as a result of a shift in companies' strategies. Indeed the landscape for ICT has changed from large global service delivery centers to being focused on more geographically dispersed and domestic centers. Therefore instead of establishing large remote centers for service delivery to cut down on cost and benefit from economies of scale, companies are more and more focused on customer / market needs and building localized centers that focus on the customers. The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) model is therefore increasingly being adopted for more higher value activities. This shift in model is also explained by the transformation of the ICT industry itself, with the cloud, data, mobile and social technology reconfiguring the way information technology is provided to individuals. Substantial new opportunities are being available, leading to a surge of start-ups and rapidly growing SMEs. This new trend is creating new types of investment activities with companies smaller in scale but higher value add. There is definitely an opportunity for Lebanon to capitalize on this market trend and leverage its specialized human capital to attract companies who wish to serve the MENA market. Increased marketing and branding of Lebanon's positioning should be among the priorities of policy makers for 2015.


The same trend is also happening in global manufacturing: while China used to be the main destination for investors looking for labor intensive operations, more competitive centers are emerging in Vietnam and Thailand. For production activities that are less labor intensive but more sensitive to transportation cost, companies are resorting to "near shoring" or relocating to closer markets.

It is therefore clear that the changes in operating conditions around the world are driving companies to rethink their investment strategies specially in sectors which are technology intensive. Policy makers on the other hand need to insure their location align skills supply and demand in key target sectors and that there is no mismatch between skills provided by the education system and those required to maintain their competitiveness.  Ensuring that the youth obtain the skills that are relevant for their industry should be a priority, especially in the ICT industry. IDAL could play a role in that sense through encouraging the formation of specialized tech clusters which foster innovation and entrepreneurship.




IDAL was an ecosystem partner at the Banque du Liban Accelerate event which brought together 1,500 persons from over 20 countries. The event which aimed at putting together "Blueprints for Success" among international entrepreneurs, investors, and professionals, witnessed the launch of many initiatives, among which is the intention to develop a UK-Lebanese joint tech hub.







We have organsied a workshop on the standards and opportunities available to "Export to Russia" on Friday 14 November at Adnan Kassar Building. The workshop which was attended by over 200 interested Agri and Agro manufacturers and exporters started off with introductory speeches from the Minister of Industry, the Minister of Economy and Trade, the Russian Ambassador to Lebanon, and a welcome note from the Chairman of the General Union of Arab Chambers Mr. Adnan Kassar as well as Chairman of IDAL Mr.Nabil Itani. The workshop also included detailed presentations by IDAL, the Ministry of Economy and Trade, and the Russian Embassy covering characteristics of the Russian market, opportunities available, and demand. Shipping companies were also available to brief the audience on the available shipping lines and routes.






Our team was part of the Lebanese delegation that is participating in the EUROMED Migration Profile Process Regional Meeting in Jordan.  The overall objective of this project is to foster cooperation on migratory issues between the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) South Partner Countries and EU Member States, as well as between ENI South Partner Countries themselves. The project also aims to assist partners in their efforts to manage various forms of migration through evidence-based and coherent migration policies. The MPP Regional Meeting in Liege in November 2013 was the first stage, the next phase had two regional high-level workshops organized in Rotterdam and Berlin in June and October. The meeting in Jordan in November took stock of progress both at regional and national level and shaped the way forward for this central component of the EUROMED Migration framework.




IDAL took part as a strategic partner at this year's North Lebanon Startup Weekend organized by the Center of Entrepreneurship of the Beirut Arab University. The participants who are mainly high school and university students took part in 60 seconds pitches, the top of which were whittled down to teams that are ready to develop several projects and ideas. IDAL which was also present during the awards ceremony, presented the winner of the 3rd award with a 2,000 USD grant.




IDAL, represented by Chairman Nabil Itani and the Legal Advisor Me. Walid Hanna, took part in the second meeting of the Arab League in Egypt focused on senior officials and economic experts from the Ministries of Economy, Trade and Investment of both Arab states and Turkey. 





The Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) is the national investment promotion agency of Lebanon. Established in 1994, IDAL aims to promote Lebanon as key investment destination and attracting, facilitating and retaining investments in LebanonIDAL reports to the President of the Council of Ministers which exercises a tutorial authority over it.


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